I've written over 50 articles about children's literature for library, preschool or home settings. I have a BA in English Lit from BYU.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, first published in 1962 by The Viking Press, has the simplicity of a haiku poem. The story is of Peter, a boy who lives in an apartment in the city, and his adventures in the snow. The boy Peter is an appealing "every child" in this story, as the author leads us through Peter's journey of discovery while he plays. Peter crunches the snow with his feet, makes footprints and tracks through the snow, and drags a stick in the snow. Peter is momentarily disappointed when the big boys don't include him in their snowball fight, and so instead he builds a snowman, makes snow angels, and slides down a snow mountain. Peter ends his full day of snow play by taking a warm bath and thinking of his adventures.
The Snowy Day is elegant in its simplicity. It will resonate with anyone who has ever played in the snow until they are frozen from head to toe. Peter in his pointy-hat snowsuit is adorable on every page, and young children will delight in his play. For those in hot climes, this snow story will make you yearn for what you're missing. And for those who have a bit too much snow, the story is a timeless reminder of why children love it so.
Author Ezra Jack Keats also illustrated this book. The illustrations of snow are simple and stylized, with Peter's bright red snowsuit in central focus. The warm colors used in the patterns and textures on Peter's pajamas, on his red wallpaper, and on his mother's dress create the feeling of a loving and nurturing home in contrast with the cool colors used to depict the scenes of crunching snow and swirling clouds. I wonder if the scenes depicting Peter in his red snowsuit with his faceless playmates were inspired by the author looking out the window of a city apartment building, only to spot a child just like Peter at play!
The Snowy Day won the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1963. The book not only tells a fine story but also featured the first African American main character to be depicted in a children's picture book. This ground-breaking book was followed by several others written by Keats, including A Whistle for Willie, Peter's Chair, A Letter To Amy, and Goggles.
The Snowy Day is also available in a dual-language version with both English and Spanish text, appropriate for language learners. This title is in the must-own children's classics category and a strong recommendation for reading and owning. It is featured on the National Education Association's "Teacher's Top 100 Books for Children" list.
Keats was a pioneer in depicting children of different ethnicities in his children's stories. His work paved the way for every child to see themselves in picture books, and not just white children, as was common during the 1960s.
An excellent Ezra Jack Keats autobiography for children is shared on the Ezra Jack Keats web page, telling the story of Ezra Jack Keat's career as a children's book author and illustrator, and sharing his inspiration from scenes in Brooklyn, New York, where he lived and worked.
Playing in the Snow
Caldecott Award Winner
Dressing for the Weather
Preschool and Storytime Lesson Planning With This Book
Use The Snowy Day in a themed unit about winter, snow, the seasons, or play.
Music and Movement
For teachers of preschool and toddler-aged children, music is an important teaching tool. Music helps keep you on pace, keeps children's attention, and provides a structured outlet for the movement young children crave. Always try begin your story time or circle time with the same song and use a group of songs children can learn during a one-month period. Using the same songs simplifies your lesson preparation and helps children to actually learn the songs you are using. After repeated exposures, children are sure to join right in!
Two songs I recommend with this book are a verse from the song made popular by Barney the Dinosaur and a little tune called Once There Was a Snowman. Once There Was a Snowman is an action song. Pretend to stand "tall, tall, tall" and as the snowman shrinks in the sun, bend your knees and melt into the ground.
Here are the relevant words to the Barney song:
If All the Snowflakes were candy bars and milkshakes, Oh what a snow that would be! I'd stand outside with my mouth open wide (ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah) Oh what a snow that would be
Children love to follow the leader in a story that requires them to do the actions with you. So create your own action story based on the things that Peter does in the story The Snowy Day. You can use the following as a guideline or adapt to make your own Snowy Day action story.
Take a walk in the snow, a guided movement activity for The Snowy Day book
- It's time to wake up! (Yawn and stretch and rub your eyes)
- Ohhh, snow! (Raise your arms in the air in big surprise)
- Time to get our coat and hat (Pretend to put on your coat, followed by your hat)
- Oops! Don't forget your gloves! (Pretend to put on gloves)
- Ooh, it's cold! Let's stomp our feet in the snow (stomp, stomp, stomp)
- I can take my stick and make a line in the snow (drag your pretend stick on the ground)
- Time to make snowballs! (Pretend to scoop some snow from the ground and make the snowball in your hands.)
- Wow it tastes cold (Stick out your tongue and taste your snowball.)
- I hear Mom calling! (Put your hand to your ear)
- Time to go inside and have a nice warm cup of chocolate! (Pretend to run to the door, and take a pretend glass.)
- That was delicious! Mmm good! (pat or rub your tummy and shake your head up and down).
Activities and Explorations
- Weather permitting, put on your coats and gloves, and play in the snow! Build a snowman, make a snow angel, and crunch the snow with your boots. Have fun!
- Art exploration. Ezra Jack Keats loved to paint as a child. Give children black or dark blue paper and white tempera paint, and suggest they paint something that they liked about the book The Snowy Day.
Other Books by Ezra Jack Keats
Keats authored or illustrated over 85 books for children during his lifetime. He passed away in 1983.
My Dog Is Lost: The first picture book Keats authored and illustrated, this book follows the journey of young Juanito as he searches through different parts of New York City.
A Whistle for Willie: In this story young Peter trying to learn to whistle for his dog, Willie. This book is part of Richard and Linda Eyre's Joy School Curriculum.
Peter's Chair: When Peter's baby sister is about to arrive, everything that used to belong to him is suddenly pink! But Peter tries to rescue his chair as he adapts to the change of a new sibling.
Goggles!: Young Peter and his friend find a pair of goggles outside, but a couple of neighborhood bullies try to take them away.
The Pet Show: Archie decides to enroll the nearby cat into his neighborhood pet show, but can't find the cat anywhere!
A Letter to Amy: Peter writes a letter to Amy about his birthday party, but the wind blows it away.
© 2008 Carolyn Augustine
Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on May 24, 2012:
Thanks Debby. If I remember correctly, this was one of the first children's books I reviewed on hubpages, if not THE first, because I feel the same way you do about it. It is also just a lovely story. Best!
Debby Bruck on April 28, 2012:
Hi Western ~ This one story has a lot of memories for me as a young college student studying to be an elementary school teacher. The teacher marked Ezra Jack Keats award winning book as a milestone in children's literature and illustration. Thanks for highlighting this book for the new generation. Blessings, Debby